By Abdi Sheikh
MOGADISHU (Reuters) - A suspected car bomb attack outside a popular hotel in the Somali capital on Friday evening killed at least six people and left the area covered with blood and burning vehicles, a senior police officer said.
Mogadishu has often been the target of attacks by al Shabaab, an al Qaeda-aligned Islamist group that was driven out of the capital by African troops two years ago. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for today's blast.
Friday's attack and others in recent months that have targeted offices of the United Nations, restaurants and other sites highlight the challenge faced by the Somali government as it tries to rebuild the nation after two decades of conflict.
"We understand a car laden with explosives was parked in front of the hotel," Farah Aden, a senior police officer, told Reuters. "This car bomb exploded and burnt the other cars which were also parked there."
At least six people, including four police men, were killed in the blast, while 15 other people were wounded, he said, adding, "The death toll may rise. There are serious injuries."
The vehicle exploded next to Hotel Maka, on a main road that runs through Mogadishu.
Four cars and two motorbikes were burnt out at the scene, a Reuters witness said. He saw three bodies of police men being carried away and described bits of human flesh scattered in the area.
In the September attack, al Shabaab rebels deployed a car bomb and suicide bomber, killing at least 15 people and wounding 23 others.
Al Shabaab have said they will keep up their campaign against the new government, after the Islamists were driven out of the capital in 2011 by an African Union force of peacekeepers.
(Additional reporting by Feisal Omar; writing by Edmund Blair; editing by Tom Pfeiffer, Ron Askew)